PSA Opting In and NPSTC 700 LMR Paper

Fri Oct 7 10:59:01 2016

Preparing to Opt In 

Over the past month I have written about the New Hampshire RFP and bid award and the Alabama and Arizona RFPs now on the street. It turns out the most read of these both by our subscribers and those who read it on LinkedIn was the Arizona RFP article (http://andrewseybold.com/3872-public-safety-advocate-9-29-2016).

After I posted those three articles I started thinking about how the three different scenarios might be able to serve as examples for other states, tribal areas, and U.S. territories that are included in the FirstNet project. I wrote a piece comparing and contrasting the three states and their options and it was published last week by Urgent Communications. (http://urgentcomm.com/blog/how-should-states-prepare-firstnet-opt-out-decision?page=4). This article has also been widely circulated.

There is a reason for all the interest in what some states have chosen to do. Many states are looking at their options and are being smart about making sure they understand them prior to the FirstNet/Partner state plan being presented to them. As I said in my Urgent Communications article, I believe the best of both worlds is to have a state RFP and the FirstNet/Partner state plan based on identical information so the decision to opt in (or opt out) is made comparing likes to likes. (“Apples to Apples” is overworked!)

It will be interesting to see how many states base their decision on what they believe is best for their own first responders, citizens, and even elected officials as well as what those who have been working with FirstNet recommend to the governor. There is the danger that the governor might be swayed by outside and state political pressure. I know politics plays into FirstNet in many different ways. Even before FirstNet, the Public Safety Alliance (PSA) and the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) had to present their case based not only on the needs of the Public Safety community and technical aspects, they had to be politically astute as well.

So as we wait out this month to hopefully learn FirstNet’s partner decision in early November, work at the state level continues. I have to believe states that have not issued an RFI or RFP are watching to see how states that have issued them are doing and how they will proceed.

It would certainly be great if FirstNet was permitted by the many other federal agencies that want to be involved to make the decision about the best partner for FirstNet. Unfortunately, the decision will involve some who have not participated in the daily activities of FirstNet nor do they comprehend why a separate Public Safety broadband network is needed. However, this will not impede these other agencies from chiming in and making their voices heard. I only hope FirstNet and its Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) will be the ones to drive the decision to its conclusion.

It won’t be long before we find out who the partner will be and then within six months we should find out what the state plans look like and if they are acceptable to the states. I am sure that by now my readers know I believe the best possible situation for a state is to opt in but negotiate a contract that enables both the state and local agency to expand the network to include more indoor and outdoor coverage over time.

This is not a one-time build type of network. Look at existing commercial network operators and how every year they are expanding their coverage, filling in sites with more capacity, and in many cases finding ways to offer indoor coverage. We need to view FirstNet’s network as a work in progress and that work will continue for virtually the entire 25-year period of the contract. To view it any other way is to shortchange the Public Safety community. Regardless of what politics have had to be addressed to make FirstNet a reality, it was never anyone’s intent to build out the network and not expand and enhance it as funds become available.

700-MHz Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Channels 

It is heartening to see that the National Public Safety Communications Council (NPSTC) picked up on the fact that two of the states’ RFPs included statements to the effect that the winning vendor will assist them in trying to convince the FCC to reallocate the 12.5 MHz of spectrum that is today dedicated to LMR into flexible use broadband spectrum. Such a move would destroy the high level of interoperability that exists in that band. NPSTC’s response was to write, and submit to the FCC, a document entitled, “Maintaining Public Safety Communications Interoperability in the 700 MHz band.”

This is both an important and timely document that hopefully will help deter any other states from being convinced that converting scarce 700-MHz LMR spectrum into yet more broadband spectrum is not needed or wanted at this point in time. The two states that included this in their RFP are New Hampshire and Alabama. It is interesting that neither of these two states will make a dent into the band 14 spectrum let alone demonstrate any need for more broadband spectrum.

The NPSTC document is a good read and I recommend any state considering this type of spectrum play read the report and pay attention to what it says. The paper is published here: http://www.npstc.org/download.jsp?tableId=37&column=217&id=3792&file=NPSTC_Pos_Paper_Maint_Reliability_Interop_700_MHz_20161003.pdf. NPSTC is an outstanding organization of volunteers whose only focus is on what is best for the Public Safety communities in the United States.

Andrew M. Seybold

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